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Ferry Corsten Talks the Current State of Trance Music, How He Crafts Epic Melodic Anthems, His Upcoming Massive Rotterdam Show & More

In an exclusive interview, trance luminary Ferry Corsten sat down with us to chat about his illustrious career, the changing landscape of trance, and his highly anticipated performance ‘What the F’ at the iconic Maassilo in Rotterdam on May 3rd, 2024.

I’ve noticed lately that electronic music tracks have gotten in general, shorter, and shorter. Back in the day, we had seven-minute-long trance anthems. Why do you think tracks are becoming shorter and do you think this is a trend that’s going to change and eventually go back to longer anthems? Or are we going to have 30 second songs in the future?

I think if the formula becomes 30 seconds, that’s the end of melodic stuff, because there’s no buildup.

A lot of this can be attributed to the Spotify culture we’re living in right now and the ADHD short attention span that people have nowadays. You know, I feel with Spotify, you’re not listening to music on Spotify, you’re listening to algorithms and analysis and numbers, that’s what people don’t realize.

But Spotify ultimately is like a wind tunnel for cars, you know? Every car on the road nowadays seems to have the same shape. And that goes for music as well because algorithms and analysis say your track should be like this or like that. This is because “that” engages the listeners the fastest and the longest. I feel that in that sense, when you look at music, everything gets shorter and shorter just to get to the meat of the track straight away and keep your listener there.

Some of these tracks are even shorter than the traditional radio edits. It’s not the best development if you ask me because it takes away the art of building a track and telling a story through music. But look, there’s the short version of that.

Luckily, there’s also a lot of people that still release the longer original version. And I also understand that a track with like a minute and a half beats intro, for a lot of people is not interesting, that’s a DJ tool. So, I get that on sites like Beatport, where you get those, but otherwise, I would love to see a sort of like a middle road, if you know what I mean. Not straight to the vocal straight to the meat, but a bit of an intro, which is already music and not just straight up beats.

You know, I get that that’s very boring to listen to. But I don’t think that we would go back all the way back to the seven-minute versions, unless you get those on Beatport, maybe. But I also definitely don’t see it going shorter than two minutes.

I think for a proper trance track, if we speak in that genre right now, I don’t think you get very far in two minutes. You tell your melody line once, and that’s it, the track is over. And I don’t think that’s what we all want.

Speaking of genres and specifically this year at A State of Trance, I noticed that this year there were more genres represented than when I went in 2020. What are your thoughts about that? And what are your thoughts to the people who push back on the inclusion of genres outside of “pure trance” at A State of Trance?

If I look back at 20 years of doing this (trance), when I started DJing, I say mostly in the UK and also the early days in the US, people were way more open minded. It has grown in such a way that these “trance purists” only want to hear this and everything outside that sort of window is not trance.

Trance has always been very, very diverse. If I look back 20 years ago, we had so many different genres, styles of music that I would now classify almost as house, but we consider that trance as well. Or at least I would play that in my set.

Tiesto would play, Armin would play that in his set, you know, it was part of the staple trance sound that that we play. But it could be a house track, could also be tracks that are almost borderline techno. You know, when I listen to old sets of mine, 2004, for example.

When I hear those purists talk about, “Oh, back in the day, everything was just so much more beautiful. And this and that.” I’m like, “Wow, you’re so wrong, man.”

Because if you listen to that set from 2004, 2001, it’s almost like it leans more towards rave than trance. You know, occasionally, there was a track that had a big sort of trance synth. And that’s why those tracks were so massive, because, compared to the rest, those were the ones that really stood out and made a moment in the night.

Now if you listen to pure trance, the 140 BPM stuff, track after, track after, track after, track after, track after track, I’m like, I’m done after three tracks, right? Because it’s all the same. So, I would say that, look, it’s cool to hear a track like that one or two, but mix it up because then the element of surprise when a track like that comes back in again, it’s just so much bigger than you hear than hearing, ten in a row. It becomes numbing, really.

So back to A State of Trance, I love it that the lineup is more diverse than just that, because it also celebrates the influence that trance as a genre has on other genres, right?

I mean, since everyone’s so afraid to use the word trance, they started using melodic. Ultimately, if you listen to melodic techno, that for me is just slow, slower, really slow down trance with a bit more depth in it.

But it’s the same thing. And where techno is heavily borrowing from the big trance classics from 20 years ago. I think you should also really admit that those tracks are just ultimately trance tracks.

So, in those genres, I would like to say that trance is almost like the tastemaker, salt and pepper, right? It brings the melodic element to those genres. And I think we should be proud of it, as a trance fan, that those genres are so melodic now that they’re being represented at A State of Trance. I think that’s amazing.

I want to talk about your upcoming event that you announced in Rotterdam on May 3rd, ‘What The F’ repertoire. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

‘What The F’ is my open-to-close concept that I’m doing. I’ve been doing it now for two years, I’d say.

I have done several shows in the US, Australia, Asia, Europe. So, for now, for the first time in my own hometown, which is great.

At some point, I got all these questions from fans, because this was when I was really playing a lot with Marcus still, and Marcus doing his open-to-close sets, and fans asked “Ferry, when are you doing this?” I’m like, yeah, I don’t really want to do the same thing as Marcus. That’s really his thing. He’s master of it.

But then I was thinking, I’ve also been doing quite a few producer sets, and they always take off. And I was like, okay, well, what if I have so much music with my various aliases, and all the music I produced over the years, I could easily fill eight, ten, twelve hours, if not more.

So, what if I do an open-to-close producer set? And that way, I also have a chance to play my deeper stuff. I have a chance to play stuff that people don’t even know is me. People may even hear certain tracks that they know, but they never knew it was me.

It’s an open to close producer set. So, playing all my stuff, and it’s a real journey from the biggest hits that people know to unreleased stuff, even back in the day, all the way to now.

Ticket link for Grotesque presents – ‘What the F’ – Ferry Corsten in Concert:

This interview was originally published on the Drop Bass Not Bombs podcast and an excerpt has been transcribed for this article.

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